I hardly think of myself as a teacher and look at myself more as a facilitator. When I was in my high school, I began teaching myself. I was given the fourth group (Commerce, Accountancy, Economics with Advanced English). I would visualize commerce and trade to make myself understand concepts. It was easier to understand the why and wherefore of things in the commercial world when there were proper aides to learning.
Since I would endlessly read and re-read my textbooks. Then, I was able to come up with visuals to go with each lesson that I was trying to learn. I soon realized that the best way to keep lessons in the head was to teach it to someone else. So, I would become the tutor and the tutee to solve the issue of understanding the text.
That is where I really began to be a facilitator. I helped myself in a way that I would be able to understand my branch of studies. If it meant doing extra works to gather visuals from my childhood while I observed the transaction happen in the real-world, I would shamelessly use that data to process my understanding. I would even go buy some things at the shop, to understand itinerate sellers, small shop owners. This then expanded to coming up with bigger pictures from the memories of the movies that I had seen on various commercial activities.
I remember helping another student before exams to understand the concepts better. She was a basketball player and popular sports player in the school. She was my second unofficial student after myself. So here was the deal, I taught myself and then retaught the student just before the exams. It was a wonderful setup, and I learned a lot in the process.
I am not a great student for me, if I am interested then I would make that extra effort to learn more. But the hardest part is to get me to like something. I had a natural inclination towards English Literature, but the other stuffs did not make sufficient sense for me.
I am essentially a student churned out from the educational system that believed in rote learning and throwing up on the realm of answer sheets the endless things that we have by hearted as a memorita passage. We were never asked to analyze and understand the in-depth logic behind the lessons. When I began facilitating for myself since I felt there are no teachers to help with my understanding of the study material. I learned and observed that the subject is easier to understand when it a fun activity.
When learning is a burden, then it is hard to learn anything significant. I found that I could make my subjects super interesting by including storytelling and narrative of unique kind. Every lesson had a story attached to it. Only problem was I did not know how to make Economics interesting. I failed there the most.
Later in the college, where I studied English Literature, I had to put least effort since I enjoyed reading stories and analyzing it was no great deal. Of course, even there I picked and choose my favorites and worked on them. For me traversing the path of a writer while looking awe-inspired at the creation has been a given frame of mind all through my Bachelor of Arts.
For a long time, I did nothing with teaching at all. I was always about writing, even to this day I do not think of myself as a teacher. During my MFA I looked for gaining experience in doing volunteering tasks so that it would add value. So, I found Reading Partners and that is when I was asked to help one child with his reading and comprehension skills. I was the happiest with Reading Partners’ program.
I helped a little boy with English text and understanding it. First thing that I told myself was that my ward was super intelligent and quick learner. I would help him with his assignment by building his confidence in the language. So, we would read through the passage assigned in the packet at his pace and when he felt comfortable. Only then, did we move to the next task. I did not do a lot of intervention just a few corrections here and there. But our time together was unhurried and set at his pace.
We had the entire semester to work on Wednesday evening every week. I felt that there was some great progress with the child, and he was really a sweet boy. We never talked at all. He was closed about his personal stuff and so our conversation was always about the material. I felt a little bad that I could not reach out to him as empathizing friend.
At the end of the school year he sent me a card thanking me. I was moved to tears. Later when I worked with Teaching Creative Writing, I felt so disjointed. Because seriously, I am not a teacher at all. But I enjoyed reading every single students’ work. Even though, I went ahead with the course requirement and added in the course included Internship at high school at Oakland and volunteering at 826 Valencia to it.
I was not sure if I was making the right decision or not. But I learned something from each experience. That teaching a child or a young adult is a slow process of nurturing with love and affection. An equal part of support, indulgence, and some firmness in keeping their goals in track.
I found that I could never fall in line with curriculum-based teaching. It simply does not work for me. I am a free spirit who cannot settle down anywhere. I prefer to explore unrestraint the various topic that I pick a fancy for on that day. There was a wide range of children that I worked with and I felt it was best to work one-on-one with each individual child.
Teaching a child is a diverse activity. One child learns differently from another. This is my personal experience and understanding. I do not want to club them all and put them all together like joint learning session and give them one-size-fits-all solution for learning challenges. I personally like to sit with a child to explore what they would like to do with their learning and where their interest lies currently and then, explore learning channels.
So, ranging from the one-on-one ward to a small group of five is the maximum capacity of children I can teach, no I can truly empathize and to inspire them. A facilitator is more of a catalyst who enables the environment of learning and supports the process. Because learning is a process. If the child is taught the right way to self-tutor, then they are set for life. Since learning never stops at any point. To experience Zen of learning is what I try to bring to the table.
In my internship with Lekha, I got the best exposure to multiple children from various socio-economic settings. I came across so many different students and I learned so much from the experience. But sadly, I felt that I was not their best choice. Since, I found it difficult to handle ten students at the same time. I was a one-on-one tutor-ward combo. I understood that I had much to learn and so, did not feel that I qualified to teach a large group.
I remember going to a school in Chennai for a storytelling session and I failed miserably because I got frightened to see 30 plus children in a class. I was shaking and my knees were knocking. All my rattled self’s thoughts were that ‘I am going to just skew up the whole story and the Q&A session after that.’ The trained teachers who interviewed me had many years of experience behind them. They had to let me go being forced by circumstance of non-performance and badly handled class. For all the scare they were 2nd graders! 😄
But I remember home tutoring two young children and I felt there was a lot of connect but I could not handle their high-level math beyond a particular grade level. I can help with language but not with numbers, I am bad at it and it is not a joke. I cannot subtract to save my life. I always add from the bottom to get the top number, even today.
The reading comprehension camp that I ran was a success and I enjoyed getting the children to pick up good points of reading and comprehending the text. Among them the youngest ward was hyper-active person. I used Pratham books as materials for the reading practice. There were just small assignments and mostly the work was done in the class of three hours duration for the stretch of two or three weeks of summer break.
I set the session in such a way that there were no pressures for the children. The idea was to read, and we did a round-robin reading. I would read the story and youngest hyperactive person would read next and so on. The story became the material to discuss and to dispute. I really enjoyed it and I was in my element when I did that.
Later when I taught about Interviewing and presentation skills to the adult students were quiet interesting to explore. This group were adult age groups. I had run two workshops with two different groups, and I felt that schooling should mimic workshop style, so that, it is practical learning of language and not static fact swallowing and replicating.
I do want to start a small circle of children to work on their reading comprehension for the English language. But currently one of my greatest challenge is to self-teach Sanskrit and Korean languages. I must figure a way out to understand sounds Phonemes, Vowels and Consonants, diphthongs, sound to text conversion, to replicate the letter patterns recognized by the linguist and language learners without any errors.
Here is a wonderful opportunity for me to figure out about how to learn a new language with less effort and make it a joyous art form. I believe with extra care one can figure out the way to overcome the challenges in the learning a new language. When doing my English Literature course, I had a hard time with Language and Linguistic paper the most, since it was the only scientific paper in the Arts category.
If I could figure a way to teach myself a language, in this case, it is Korean and Sanskrit, then I can figure a way out of the challenges when faced with a new language. Learning skills need support from various channels and I believe it takes some strong passion to learn.
Inference therefrom in my quirky way!
For me I believe working with one-on-one with a single child without setting any specific grandiose goal of becoming a super-talented student, but just to gently drift with the subject of the child’s interest would be a great way of learning based on exploration.
PS: Article is Work-in-progress and will be reworked
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